Identifying the necessary components of a police decision-making model

Trenholm, Sharon Barter (2018) Identifying the necessary components of a police decision-making model. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (4MB)


As police officers are entrusted with significant amounts of discretion and power in instances potentially involving arrest, use of force, search, and seizure, their decisions have serious consequences. Yet, very little research has been conducted into police officer thinking and decision-making. The objective of this research was to identify the necessary components of a decision-making model which can be used to prepare police officers to appropriately exercise their discretion when dealing with ambiguous, time-pressured, and consequential situations. The research on critical thinking (CT) and decision-making in policing was reviewed and supplemented with research from related disciplines. Multiple decision-making models were identified, discussed, and compared. The recognition/metacognition (R/M) model developed by Cohen, Freeman, and Thompson (1998) was identified as potentially adaptable for use in policing. As CT is considered best learned in domain specific environments, the police context for decision-making must be explored. A multimethod study was designed and conducted. Frontline police officers were the focus as they are particularly impacted by time, access to information, and stress effects. Responses to Critical Incident Analysis Interviews were combined with findings from the literature, to prepare a questionnaire. Canadian police services were contacted and invited to participate in a survey of frontline police decision-making. The services which agreed to participate forwarded the invitation to frontline police personnel. Respondents provided their information through an online survey. The sampling was non-random, as self-selection occurred at the service and individual levels. The results indicated that a model of police decision-making should include recognition and metacognition components taught through a domain specific approach. The five identified themes of: information, safety, planning, respite, and articulation should be used for scenario creation. A Recognition-CT Police Decision-Making Model is proposed. The information collected was detailed and rich, but cannot be confidently stated to be representative of all Canadian police officers, and while having many strengths, qualitative studies can also be prone to researcher bias. Even with these caveats, this research provides important information to improve our understanding of the complex and ambiguous environment in which police decision-making occurs. Suggestions for future research on police decision-making and the role of CT are also discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 13237
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 180-200).
Keywords: police, decision-making, critical thinking, model, interdisciplinary
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: April 2018
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Police -- Decision making

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics